Thai Scented Onion Soup

Although this recipe seems exotic with galangal root, lemongrass and lime kefir leaves, it is really very simple and quick to prepare once you know the trick behind getting these ingredients and having them on hand.  Galangal root is a cousin of ginger with a milder flavor. Galangal root, lime kefir leaves and lemongrass are available at Asian markets. Because I frequently make this soup in cold-season, I purchased them in larger quantities and freezer them.  I slice the galangal root into thin coins and wrap them well before freezing.  Lemongrass stalks can be wrapped in plastic and stored in the freezer. This way they are ready to go when the first sign of a cold appears. 


  • 2 large onions
  • 8 ounces thin rice sticks
  • 6 cups home made or boxed chicken stock
  • 2 inches galangal root or 6-8 slices
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 lime kefir leaves
  • 1 large carrot
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro or parsley
  • Organic extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
  • Sea salt
  • Optional for added protein: cooked diced chicken, shrimp or extra firm tofu
  • Sriracha sauce
  • Lime wedges


  1. Soak the rice sticks in hot water for about 20 minutes to soften them.  When soft, drain and rinse well and set aside.
  2. Cut the onions from root to stem in long thin slices.  In a large skillet, sauté the sliced onions in olive or coconut oil over moderate-low heat until the onions are soft and sweet and just begin to develop a golden color. 
  3. In a soup pot, heat stock to a boil with galangal root, lemongrass and lime kefir leaves.  Reduce heat to a gentle simmer (just an occasional bubble breaking through the surface).  Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse.
  4. Slice the carrot into matchsticks. Add carrots and sautéed onions to the simmered broth and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes.  Taste and adjust flavor with sea salt. 
  5. Just a few minutes before you are ready to serve, add the cooked chicken, shrimp or tofu if using. 
  6. To serve, add a bundle of softened rice noodles to each bowl.  Ladle the hot broth over the noodles, garnish with cilantro or parsley.  Serve with lime wedge to spritz into the soup and sriracha sauce.


Shopping notes: 

At Oriental Market, which is just down the street from Boise Natural Health on Emerald at Orchard, they stock lime kefir leaves and galangal root in the freezer.  (They are tricky to find, so ask the clerk for help.)  Each Saturday, the Oriental Market gets a selection of Asian produce, including fresh lemongrass.   The lemongrass supply does not always last past the weekend, but they do have grated lemongrass in the freezer.  You can use a tablespoon or 2 instead of the fresh stalks.  Because the grated lemongrass is quite fibrous, tie it into a little cheesecloth, or place it in a tea ball and it will infuse beautifully.